Shib Mathew is the founder and executive chairman of freelance management platform, YunoJuno. I chatted with Shib about his role, YunoJuno’s recent growth, and his thoughts on the evolution of the workplace.

Shib Mathew
Image: Shib Mathew

Talk me through your role… what does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is different which I absolutely love. Since becoming Executive Chairman, I’ve been able to spend more time focusing on how we maintain our vision as a company as well as looking to the future. What this means on a day-to-day basis is that I’m able to check in with teams more regularly in assessing how we are looking after our two most important communities – freelancers and clients – and where we can do better.

As a founder (I founded the company in 2012), I’ve always taken an active role in how we communicate the business, so there’s not a day where I’m not reviewing messaging or being the communicator for YunoJuno. There is more structure than the early days, but we still very much function as a rapidly growing start-up so both my co-founder and I, along with our executive team speak on a daily basis on how best to execute our roadmap.

The other part of my day – by design – has been to take a very pastoral role with our team.  Even though the company is approaching 100 employees, I still meet with everyone individually and check in on their health and well-being within the business. They are the most important part of how we accomplish what we set out to build at YunoJuno.

What’s been your biggest achievement at YunoJuno so far?

The biggest achievement so far has been reaching over 100 thousand freelance bookings on the YunoJuno platform totalling more than half a billion pounds. We achieved this milestone in December 2021, but what made that milestone even more significant was that it came after all we all had to endure due to Covid-19.

This was coupled with the most significant tax reform to hit self-employed individuals in IR35. Even though those initial months saw a downturn in business, and the wider market having to grapple with iR35 and all its implications to hiring and compliance, our team continued to build on our product and strategise on how to deliver more for our community in a post-pandemic world. This was incredible to witness. These efforts were rewarded with 2021 being our biggest year yet and seeing 100% growth for the year.

How has the pandemic and the ‘great resignation’ impacted YunoJuno? Will these changes be permanent?

I think the “great resignation” falls into the category of problem versus symptom. But the problem, however devastating it has been to people all over the world, isn’t the pandemic though. The problem is that the labour market hasn’t responded adequately enough to people’s preferences in how they choose to work and pursue their careers.

The pandemic was the touchpaper that sparked people everywhere to reassess their priorities. I believe this reassessment will continue, but I think that freelancing opens the door for these priorities to find greater balance. Freelancing has become a vocational choice, and an individual’s worth as a member of a team or an organisation is becoming more about the many and varied opportunities they have had during their career – something that freelancing enables in abundance – rather than long-standing tenure.

What is your opinion on the downsides of the freelance economy – how do you ensure proper working conditions and protection?

I believe this revolves around education and changing attitudes to the future of work. Over the years the perception of freelancing has changed dramatically. When I first started my career in the early nineties, engaging a freelancer might be seen as a last resort or the person you employed when other preferred options were unavailable. But these days freelancers have become an organisation’s first choice because of the breadth of experience and expertise they can bring to a particular project – i.e. from all the other engagements they’ve had.

However, what has failed to occur is a truly bespoke approach to regulations and policy that both acknowledge and respond to a new work paradigm that is far outpacing any other labour market trend.  So, I believe there is still some way to go in making sure that freelancers feel adequately protected in the labour market like their permanent employee counterparts.

What is your vision for the future of the workplace? How will it evolve?

My vision for the future of the workplace is that there are a greater number of people working in an agile setting and that those people can feel that the wider labour market, government policy, and economic infrastructure has adequately caught up with people’s desire for freedom and flexibility in how they choose to work and excel in their careers.

I would like to see freelancing just another choice of employment style much like apprenticeships are seen today. Even as a university graduate, the choice of freelancing should be just as attractive as working for a world-renowned organisation because you have the potential to work for many world-renowned companies with greater frequency.

For brands, what is the benefit of hiring freelancers over in-house teams? How will this affect skills?

A freelancer’s movement across organisations is one of their greatest assets and is incredibly valuable – to both the freelancer and their next hirer. Exposing themselves to varied environments and processes all contribute to the development of their expertise which has tangible benefits for a hiring organisation. Where an in-house team’s exposure might be limited to tenure, freelancers bring a much greater collection of experiences and ways-of-working that is only a bonus for future hirers.

What’s next for YunoJuno?

2021’s growth, as well as the nature in which we have emerged from Covid, has highlighted the incredible desire for companies and freelancers looking for YunoJuno’s brand of the future of work. So, what’s next for YunoJuno is answering the question of how we do what we do at a greater scale, in multiple markets, with the same level of expertise and service that we offer here in the UK.

Many of our existing clients – from large multinational companies to global networks – are pulling us into the markets they operate in because they see the benefit of having the same platform to manage all of their freelancer engagements globally. We’ve proven ourselves with a single market and they want YunoJuno as their route into delivering their operations in a more agile way.